CAPE ELIZABETH — Construction will begin this year on a pathway along Shore Road that has been envisioned for many years.

A large crowd at Town Hall on Monday night burst into applause, cheered and hugged after the Town Council voted unanimously to fill a $75,000 funding gap in the cost of the $1,030,000 project.

“We’re getting a $1 million, incredible pathway that we have been trying to get for 25 years,” said Councilor Sara Lennon. “I feel the vast majority of our town is in favor of this.”

The 2-mile path will stretch from the town center to the entrance of Fort Williams Park. Supporters say it will make the narrow, winding two-lane road safer for the many bicyclists, pedestrians and joggers who use it.

No private land will have to be taken. Two homeowners have agreed to allow the path on their property.

The project to build the path along the west side of Shore Road was set in motion in October 2007, when the council formed the Shore Road Path Committee to develop a conceptual plan. The committee’s final plan called for a 5-foot-wide asphalt path.

In September 2009, the Town Council voted 4-3 to authorize the pathway. Councilors voted to spend $110,000 on final design work and permitting for the project.

Instead of committing money to build the pathway, councilors authorized a group of residents to raise funds and asked Town Manager Mike McGovern to seek federal and state assistance.

The funding came together Monday night. The town announced that it had received a $729,000 grant from the Maine Department of Transportation, and Jim Kerney, spokesman for Safe Access For Everyone, said his organization had raised just over $100,000 for the pathway.

Those two amounts, combined with the $75,000 from the town’s Infrastructure Improvement Fund, will cover most of the project’s cost.

Some residents still feel the project is unnecessary.

Frances Haywood has lived on Shore Road for 35 years. She didn’t speak at Monday’s meeting, but said beforehand that there are greater needs in the state than funding a recreational path.

“It doesn’t pass the straight-face test that the state would be giving Cape Elizabeth three-quarters of a million dollars,” she said. “There are far greater needs out there.”

Karen Holmes, who lives on Olde Colony Lane, off Shore Road, questioned whether a pathway would make the two-lane road safer.

“I’m just not sure Shore Road will ever be safe,” she said.

But most people who spoke Monday urged approval of the pathway.

“Please vote yes to build a pathway to keep kids safe,” said Piper Strunk, a third-grade student.

“I’ve always considered Shore Road to be the most dangerous road in town,” said Councilor Caitlin Jordan. “I think it is well worth the money to put this pathway in.”

Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said the state grant won’t become available until after July 1, which means construction probably won’t start until this fall.

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: [email protected]